By Diliana Alexander, IFCM
“Miami Audiences made for the best screening we have had for Filly Brown”
In it, “Majo” Tonorio, aka Filly Brown (Gina Rodríguez), a Mexican-American hip-hop prodigy from Los Angeles, percolates with the raw energy of hope sprung from desperation and is recruited by a shady producer who offers her a crack at rap stardom. The late Jenni Rivera plays the part of Majo’s mother María, who is locked up in jail for drug trafficking. Lou Diamond Phillips is the father who takes care of Majo and her younger sister. This is a drama where family has the power to destroy and ultimately save. The film is a co-directorial work of Yussef Delara and Michael D’ Olmos. The acting in the film is solid. Gina’s talent is very exciting and she has a bright future, no doubt.
Watching Mr. Olmos in the role of family lawyer Leonardo made me want to re-watch every film he has ever been in. For me his talent is par Marlon Brando’s and Robert De Niro’s, so when I got a chance to interview him, I had so many questions I wanted to ask. I had to contain myself to fifteen minutes, here is the result:
IFCM (Indie Film Club Miami): What is your favorite movement of the festival so far?
EJO (Edward James Olmos): The screening of Filly Brown. It was so beautifully received. They laughed, they cried, they understood the entire story. It was the best screening (reception) we have had of the film.
IFCM: Why is it important to tell the story of Filly Brown?
EJO: Because it is a story that has not been told, it’s the perspective of hip hop and a young poet, who happens to be a woman. What happens when you want to live your dream and how difficult life choices are. At the end the most important aspect is the unity of the family.
IFCM: You are famous for selecting your roles very carefully, why did you pick this one?
EJO: It was the first time I was going to play an attorney. A Latin attorney. There are a lot of us who are Latin and there are a lot of us who are attorneys, but I have never played one. So I was very grateful to get the opportunity.
IFCM: How is being directed by your son different from being directed by someone else?
EJO: It’s phenomenal. It’s a lot of shorthand. If there were differences, may be it would have been difficult, but on this set, there were none. What matters, is what does the director need. The only thing I have ever really cared about was how to tell the story, we are story-tellers. Once you step into this world and you realize that it is a collaboration and the most important thing is the story, you don’t let your ego get in the way, it becomes something special.
IFCM: Do you think films can change society?
EJO: Oh yeah, the strongest medium in the world, bar none. Nothing attacks the subconscious mind more than the audio visual event, when it is projected on the big screen, with no peripheral vision and with immersive sound. If you are Einstein, ninteen percent of your brain is conscious if you are the average person, six is, but your subconscious mind works 24/7. You want to sway someone, put it on film and let them watch it in the theater, then they will have dreams about it, nightmares about it. To me there is nothing more impactful.
This film especially will change how people look at young women, the dreams of these young women, how powerful and strong young women can be, where the wrong decisions will get you and how making the right decision will get you somewhere too, it’s all in there. This is a film that if you give it a chance, it will move you.
IFCM: There is a growing independent film movement in Miami at the moment. What is your advice to the budding filmmaker and actor? Is it necessary to come to Hollywood to achieve their career potential?
EJO: No! Not at all. The most effective films come from people who understand the region they are talking about. If your film is about Hollywood, go to Hollywood, but if your story is about Miami, why do you have to go to Hollywood to make the story. Then you have to come back here to make the movie. Just stay here and make the movie and let Hollywood pay you for making movies where you live.
IFCM: What do you prefer, TV or film, Stand and Deliver or Battlestar?
EJO: You know the most effective role I have done in TV is in Battlestar, the most effective film I have done is Stand and Deliver. Stand and Deliver has been used every year, by teachers all over America, to inspire the students and to motivate them. It has been out for 25 years, it has been seen by billions of people….Have you seen it?
IFCM: We are big fans of the film, it is iconic for South Florida filmmakers and , some of us were taught by its writer, Tom Musca.
EJO: Yes, I know Tom. That’s great. My love to you and your collective. I hope that you see FILLY BROWN and you love it as much as I loved making it.
Filly Brown opens in Miami, next Friday, April 19th. We hope that Mr. Edward James Olmos comes back to Miami, we have written a few parts for him!